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Mediterranean diet associated with reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease

Eating a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables and olive oil and includes little red meat, is associated with a lower risk for Alzheimer's disease, according to an article posted online today that will appear in the December 2006 print issue of Archives of Neurology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. This association persisted even when researchers considered whether individuals had vascular diseases--diseases of the blood vessels, such as stroke, heart disease and diabetes--suggesting that the diet may work through different pathways to reduce Alzheimer's disease risk.

The Mediterranean diet consists of high amounts of fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals and fish, mild to moderate amounts of alcohol and low amounts of red meat and dairy products, according to background information in the article. This diet has been associated with a lower risk for several diseases and risk factors, including cancer, obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, problems with processing glucose that may lead to diabetes, coronary heart disease and overall death.

Nikolaos Scarmeas, M.D., and colleagues at Columbia University Medical Center, New York, studied whether the Mediterranean diet could also help prevent Alzheimer's disease--a debilitating neurodegenerative disease--in a group of 1,984 adults with an average age of 76.3. The participants, 194 of whom already had Alzheimer's disease and 1,790 of whom did not, were given complete physical and neurological examinations and a series of tests of brain function. Their diet over the previous year was analyzed and scored based on how closely it adhered to the principles of the Mediterranean diet--scores ranged from zero to nine, with higher scores indicating eating patterns that aligned closely with the Mediterranean diet. The researchers obtained information about vascular disease diagnoses from the exams, participants' or relatives' reports and medical records.

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Contact: Elizabeth Streich
212-305-6535
JAMA and Archives Journals
9-Oct-2006


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